By Langton Nyakwenda
Benjani Mwaruwari could probably rival Belgian Tom Saintfiet among the shortest-serving members of the Warriors technical team in local football history.
He was appointed assistant coach on August 25, becoming Zdravko “Loga’’ Logarusic’s third assistant alongside Lloyd Chitembwe and Tonderai Ndiraya.
Tembo Chuma was the goalkeepers’ coach.
However, 18 days later, the former Portsmouth and Manchester City striker was swept away by the same tide that claimed the scalps of Loga and his lieutenants.
Team manager Wellington Mpandare was the only survivor of the shake-up.
Effectively, Mwaruwari sat on the Warriors bench for only two games — the 0-0 draw with South Africa at the National Sports Stadium and the 0-1 surprise away defeat to Ethiopia, which triggered the dismantling of Loga’s coaching staff.
Saintfiet did not even have the chance to sit on the Warriors bench as he was bundled out of the country after flouting immigration laws by beginning his duties without a work permit.
Then, as now, interim Warriors coach Norman Mapeza was part of the script in the Saintfiet-ZIFA drama, as the Belgian had been brought in to replace the FC Platinum gaffer.
Some people believe ZIFA were unfair in jettisoning Mwaruwari, who became a victim of collateral damage.
Others claim his appointment was an attempt by ZIFA to pacify restive football fans that had long lost confidence in Loga following the Croat’s poor record of just one win in 14 games for the Warriors.
On Friday night, Benjani broke his silence over the debacle by insisting he had no hard feelings.
“(I have) no qualms whatsoever. In any case, what happened was normal in any normal football situation,” Mwaruwari told The Sunday Mail Sport from his base in the United Kingdom.
“Norman (Mapeza) had to be given the prerogative to choose his own assistants. He is a local coach who knows the terrain very well, having also coached the squad before, so it was only fair to let him hunt with his trusted dogs.
“Mapeza knows the players as well, so he has to fight the battle with his trusted soldiers and he has to be given that opportunity.
“It is normal in coaching for a head coach to have his own trusted lieutenants.
“In any case, I am fully behind Mapeza. We all have to support him because this is all about Zimbabwe, not individuals.”
When he was appointed into the national team set-up, Mwaruwari indicated that he wanted to use the spell to learn as he had just graduated from coaching class.
That apprenticeship was, however, cut short, albeit in rather embarrassing fashion.
But Mwaruwari maintains that Zimbabweans must rally behind the new coach.
Mapeza came in with his own assistants — Mandla Mpofu of Highlanders and Triangle’s Taurai Mangwiro.
Former CAPS United and Zimbabwe goalkeeper Energy Murambadoro came in as the goalkeepers’ trainer, replacing Chuma.
A holder of a UEFA, a coaching badge, the former Manchester City striker is now unattached.
Before his Warriors appointment, he did some apprenticeship at his former club Portsmouth, who are now playing in English League One.
He remains open to another stint with the Warriors should it arise.
“In fact, like I have always said, everything to do with my national team I will commit. Even in the future, if another opportunity arises, I will be available because this is for Zimbabwe.
“Yes, I sat on the bench for only two games, but in football nothing is ever guaranteed. Coaches come and go, so I have no qualms at all.
“When I came in, what we were trying to do was to look into the future, but some people also didn’t understand it, but we have to keep supporting whoever is in charge of the Warriors. I am fully behind Mapeza and I am praying all goes well.”
The 49-year-old Mapeza was given a three-month contract which runs out on December 31.
His first assignment comes on October 6 when the Warriors face Ghana’s Black Stars away in a Group G World Cup qualifier.
The Warriors will then host the Black Stars in Harare three days later.
Zimbabwe will play their penultimate group game away to South Africa on November 11, before hosting Ethiopia three days later.
ZIFA have indicated that they may give Mapeza a longer contract, which should include next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, should he impress in the remainder of the World Cup qualifiers.
Zimbabwe anchor Group G with a point, three less than log leaders South Africa.
Only the table toppers progress to the final qualifying round. The Sunday Mail